About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Guest Post — Karen Swan

Pumpkin Latte

Pumpkin Latte

Okay…Bethanne here with our Guest Blogger for November 11th. I have to admit something. Today, I listened to “Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer.” Partly circumstantial, once I had the song going, I actually enjoyed myself. *gasp* So, it’s fitting that all those wonderful Christmas books are coming back out of the woodwork. And today, Karen Swan is here to answer a few of our pertinent questions and tell us about her Christmas book. So pull up a chair and your favorite cold weather beverage, and Enjoy!

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A little something personal….

1. What were you doing the last time you really had a good laugh? Skiing. I say skiing. I mean belly boarding on a sheet of ice down a Swiss mountain, eating snow and laughing my head off. My children now think I’m a legend.

2. What is your favorite curse word? Bollocks. It’s got that very British Richard Curtis / Blackadder vibe to it and it’s a hugely satisfying word to enunciate, perfect for stubbed toe moments.

3. Do you still have your tonsils? I do. But not my wisdom teeth, my virginity or my sanity.

A little something professional…

4. What sparked the idea for this book? It was prompted by a feature I read in an Interiors magazine about a chic Textiles Designer in Venice. They photographed her on the balcony of her apartment which was all distressed plaster and chandeliers, a plate of figs before her and she was top-to-toe in Marni and Prada. I was intrigued: Her hair was dark and bobbed, mine is long and blonde; she looked enigmatic, I looked girl-next-door; she eats figs; I eat apples. She grew up with a canal outside her window, I grew up with an oak tree outside mine. I wondered how much each of us was products of our upbringings and environments. Would I have been more like her if I’d grown up in Venice? Would she have been more like me if she’d grown up in London? It made me start to think about whether you can ‘shift’ identity with place? If I was to put the same woman in three different cosmopolitan cities, like New York, Paris and London – would she remain the same in them all?
5. Did you experience times when the story didn’t go the way you planned? What did you do? In every one of the eight books I’ve written, there’s always been a surprising development that I didn’t forsee and the books never end up being exactly as I imagined at the beginning (although that’s generally a good thing.)
I always start writing with a good idea of the broad strokes of the story – who, what, where, why – and I usually pinpoint three or four major scenes that I have to work the story towards, but what I can never be exact about is how I’m going to get the story to and from those points.
I deliberately don’t try to plan it too much in advance. Getting to know your characters is like getting to know real people and it takes time. You can’t rush or force it, else it feels contrived and it’s those ‘bridging’ scenes that really develop flavour, colour and emotion – and that’s where the surprises tend to come in. It’s not unusual for me to write something that, even four seconds earlier I’d had no idea I was about to write. When it happens, I tend to take myself off for a cup of tea and ring my husband to get his opinion but invariably, I take the view that if something’s a surprise to me, it’ll be even more of a surprise to the reader.
6. When did you first consider yourself a writer? Only when I wrote my first scene and it actually looked and read as though it belonged in a real, proper book. It gave shape to the narratives and daydreams that filled my head and I realized I’d been telling stories all my life – I just hadn’t brought them out of my head. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before then. Of course I was a writer!
7. What inspired you to write your first book? I had worked as a journalist and written a couple of non-fiction books. It was my agent for those who kept urging me to give fiction a try. I kept resisting – I’d never done any courses and hadn’t particularly enjoyed creative writing at school, although I’m an obsessive reader. But then, one afternoon, I suddenly and unexpectedly had some free time. I was at a loss, unsure what to do with myself, so I took my laptop down to the library and stared at the screen. I had no great inspiration: no characters, no plot, no start point, no hook, no twist. No idea. But then, gradually, this image began to form in my mind of two women sitting in a garden in London, watching their toddlers play, talking about their marriages… I jotted down their conversation and realized, as I read it through, that it was really rather funny and sharp. I could hear their voices, their tone, so clearly; I inherently knew their background and pasts and in the space of an hour, they had become real to me. All I had to do then, was give them a story in which to inhabit, a framework in which to exist.

And just for fun!…

Leather or lace? Leather
Black or red? Red
Satin sheets or Egyptian cotton? Egyptian Cotton
Ocean or mountains? Mountains
City life or country life? City Life
Hunky heroes or average Joe? Hunky Heroes
Party life or quiet dinner for two? Party Life
Dogs or cats? Dogs

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Author Bio: Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and an ADHD puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her first novel, Players, was published in 2010, followed by Prima Donna and Christmas at Tiffany’s in 2011.

XmasAtTiffanys

 

In the wake of a heartbreaking betrayal, a young woman leaves the Scottish countryside to find her destiny in three of the most exciting cities in the world—New York, Paris, and London—in this funny and triumphant tale of fulfillment, friendship, and love.

Ten years ago, a young and naïve Cassie married her first serious boyfriend, believing he would be with her forever. Now, her marriage is in tatters and Cassie has no career or home of her own. Though she feels betrayed and confused, Cassie isn’t giving up. She’s going to take control of her life. But first she has to find out where she belongs . . . and who she wants to be.

Over the course of one year, Cassie leaves her sheltered life in rural Scotland to stay with her best friends living in the most glamorous cities in the world: New York, Paris, and London. Exchanging comfort food and mousy hair for a low-carb diet and a gorgeous new look, Cassie tries each city on for size as she searches for the life she’s meant to have . . . and the man she’s meant to love.

HarperCollins

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Google Books

iTunes

Indiebound

Walmart

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Cover Design Guest Post — Fiona Jayde Media

We’re Passionate about our work at Through Heart-Shaped Glasses and lately, we’ve been wanting to share that work with you, our readers. So we’ve opened our blogging schedule to some of the people who make the book world an AWESOME place to be. Our first guest is Fiona Jayde of Fiona Jayde Media.

IndTaleHalfPage

1. What was the first book cover that made you want to create your own?

I won’t name names to protect the innocent, but before I was a cover artist, I was an author. My first publisher was amazing, but unfortunately, their book covers left a lot to be desired. I was releasing my fifth book with them and trying to convince them to use my own art – and created my first cover. It wasn’t great, but it got me hooked. That book is long out of print, but the love of creating book covers came from that situation.

2. What’s the first thing you notice about a photograph or image?

Crispness. Is it clear what the image or photograph is about or is it a jumble of various things? I like strong focal points without clutter, both in photographs and book covers (and art in general). Second thing I notice is details – I love deliberate details that really bring out the image. A small additional “curve” to a letter to make it pop, or texture of an object in the background – those aren’t seen at first glance, but they really make a difference to me. (Yes, I know my answers contradict each other!)

A great example of this is artist Jan van Eyck and this image here:  the image has a strong focal point, but if you zoom in on the smallmirror, you will see a very realistic reflection. I love details like these!

3. Do you ever pick up a camera and take your own photographs?
Does my iPhone count? I’m a terrible photographer, and I’m spoiled by my photoshop brushes. I think that I can take any picture I want and fix it up, when in truth, it’s impossible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I try to be realistic about how I spend my time (too many hobbies and a toddler!), and honestly, photography never been an interest to me save for what I can do with the images afterwards. Why spend time on something that’s not my passion? I’d rather purchase images taken by those who love what they do, and then work my magic.

4. Do you read the books/synopsis of the story before you begin work on the cover art?
I specifically make it a point not to read the book so not to get emotionally involved in the story or characters. My job is to pull out the most marketable aspects of the book – tropes, hooks, ideas, and visually communicate them to readers. If I fall in love with a character who isn’t the best marketing point for the book, I will not approach the cover with a clear head, doing my author client a dis-service.

I do absolutely read the synopsis and blurbs of books and often consult how to make them more interesting for readers. Before I had my daughter, I was a voracious romance reader picking up anything that remotely struck my interest. Now that I don’t have as much time, I need to know a book is going to hit my sweet spot (anyone got a duty vs love romance? One of the characters tasked to betray/destroy the other but falls in love with them instead? Link me! ). While a great cover will make a me click on a book, a great blurb is going to make me want to read more, and I need to know what the stakes are. It all becomes a circle of sorts – the cover flowing into the synopsis and back again– because they both work together to visually show the heart of the book and the reason a reader will want to dive in.

5. Who do you look up to as a role model in this industry?
Gene Mollica – the man is an amazing cover artist!
My mentors – Syneca Featherstone and April Martinez, both who have been in this business for a long time and have taught me so much over the years.
Luis Royo (who technically isn’t a cover artist per se, although a lot of his works ended up on book/magazine covers). His work has been an inspiration to me since art school.
Michael Whelan – an incredible fantasy artist (and my first exposure to a cover artist). I get a lot of inspiration from his use of color and light.

6. When you put together an incredible cover, do you get the urge to tell its story?

LOL not really, because I already know the story! Most if not all of my work is commissioned, so a cover already has a story. Oftentimes, I get covers where I absolutely have to read the book – and those are a real kick to purchase at Amazon and see my name on the credits. (A while back I did a cover about a homicide detective who falls for a murder suspect – duty vs love trope. Love those!)

A few Details:
7. What can an author expect when they contact you?
Authors can expect a prompt response, clear communication, suggestions as to what is pertinent in the market today, ideas/brainstorming for direction of their covers and general industry know-how and advice. I do not invoice for payment until both myself and the artist are clear about what we are doing so there’s no surprises.

8. How long from start to finish to get their cover art?
My general turn around time for the first concept is ten business days, and it can take another week for revisions depending on their complexity.

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HSG is excited about getting industry professionals on the blog to share their work and open doors for our readers. Thanks to Fiona for being a first!! And now, just for a fun, a quick meme that I think we’ll start giving all our guests to answer. 😀

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Just for fun
:
Leather or lace? Leather.

Black or red? For me to wear? Black. For things around me? Red.

Satin sheets or Egyptian cotton? Egyptian cotton. Satin sheets just make things slide around and you can’t get traction.

Ocean or mountains? Oceans! I’m an Aquarius and water is so my element!

City life or country life? Can I have country life with high speed internet and sexy cowboys to take care of the ranch? My bff made me milk a goat when I visited her family’s ranch, and while I don’t think I traumatized the goat too much, I did trip out when it was time to gather eggs. Do you KNOW where eggs come from???

Hunky heroes or average Joe? I’m vain. Hunky heroes. Although hunky can come in many forms, and confidence and a wicked sense of humor will overthrow a pretty but silent mug any day.

Party life or quiet dinner for two? Quiet dinner for two.

Dogs or cats? Both! I have an 80lb beast and two feline dictators. A toddler and a hubs. And a partridge in a pear tree.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

The Scariest Times in your Life

I haven’t written more than a page in a good month or more…. more.

My life has been taken over by baby.

Ha! Can’t help myself…too funny. And oddly enough, somewhat accurate.

But the worst part is…because you know it’s not that sweet, sweet child you gave birth to and who is the cutest thing ever…the worst part is that in the back of your mind, you wonder if you’ll ever do what you really want to ever again. There’s like a switch back that there gets flipped and doubts start eating away at your thoughts.

It’s the worst kind of writer’s block…and blogger’s block.

I almost missed my day today. Just about forgot it again. 😛 But it’s our scary month and I wanted to share what’s going on…and then send you over to my good friend Bria’s blog. She’s got a story that we could all do well to listen to. 🙂 Happy Halloween, Happy All Saints Eve…. whatever you celebrate. Enjoy it.

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Guest Post — Aubrey McKnight

Aubrey McKnight writes the Ladies of the Abberly Theater series for Boroughs Publishing Group, with a new release coming soon: A Family for Christmas: An Abberly Theater Christmas Story.

Maddy_coverRomance. In a vaudeville type theater in Victorian London, no less. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea. At the time I was working on a Victorian mystery, and had hit a particularly uncrackable writer’s block. So I set that manuscript aside and began to consider a complete rewrite or perhaps just let it stew for a while. I chose the latter. I hate plotting. I hate rewrites even more.

However, I knew I needed to keep my writing focus going during the break, so my critique partner (Lark Eden aka Quinn Langston) suggested I try writing a short story. Something more than a magazine article, but not a full blown novel. Something to keep my mind working and my hands busy typing (and out of the cookie jar) while the mystery worked itself out. My critique partner and I do that; dare and push each other. A lot.

Iphigenia_cover
Iphigenia and the Showman
was the first book in the Ladies of the Abberly Theater series. A female magician and the theater owner who makes her a star. It’s in Iphigenia that we meet seamstress and former stage performer, Madelyn LeCavalier, one of the characters around which A Family for Christmas centers. At the height of her popularity, Madelyn (featured in book 2: Maddy and the Gambler) was attacked by a zealous fan. The attack left her profoundly disfigured and unable to bear children.

In A Family for Christmas, Madelyn is dealing with her friends, Iphigenia and Calliope (featured in book 3: Calliope and the Viscount) starting families. She knows her husband, Will, would make a wonderful father and mourns the fact she won’t be able to give him children of their own.Christmas at the Abberly4 Enter two homeless, motherless children, Thomas and his sister Annie. Madelyn has never considered adoption, much less discussed it with her husband, but these children need a home and Will is ready to be a father. Everything is wonderful…until their abusive biological father, who had abandoned them just before their mother died, returns from sea. He wants them back, if only to have someone to fetch bottles and take out his anger on. Will he take the children away from the only security they’ve known since their mother died? Or can Madelyn and Will convince a judge to allow them to keep the children safe from harm?

A Family for Christmas is coming soon from Boroughs Publishing Group. The other Ladies of the Abberly Theater stories are available at www.boroughspublishinggroup.com, or at Amazon.com for 99 cents.

Author Bio

Kim picAubrey McKnight gave up the glamorous life of a lab rat to do what she’d wanted to do almost since she learned to read: tell stories. By day, she’s a mild mannered mom, but at night she wields a merciless pen, er, keyboard. She enjoys cooking, hockey, and shoving people together only to tear them apart again. She’s lived all over the U.S., and currently resides in Texas with her wonderful husband, their annoyingly smart daughter, and a lovable if lazy St. Bernard named Bongo.

Her first historical series, Ladies of the Abberly Theater, is published through Boroughs Publishing Group. You can contact Aubrey at www.aubreymcknight.com, aubreymcknightauthor@gmail.com, or follow her on Twitter @aubreymauthor. She loves to hear from her readers.

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Fall Food Favorites

October is one of my favorite months of the year. The changing of the leaves is at the top of the list, but another reason I like it so much is that by this time of the year I’ve had all the salad I can stand. And I’m dying for some comfort food. Food that simmers for hours, makes the house smell like home, and fills your stomach and your heart. Okay, and sometimes your arteries, but we do try to update the recipes.

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Summer heat doesn’t really lend itself to heavy food, even though using the oven isn’t the big deal it used to be. At this time of year breakfast muffins and savory dinners compete for time and attention in our house. Beef stew and fresh biscuits, or homemade chicken pot pie. Roast turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving anymore. I’ve got one in the fridge right now for dinner on Friday. We’ll have it along with some fresh mashed potatoes.

Next week our grandson is coming to visit, so we’ll be making cookies for sure. And a trip to the orchard is in order so we can pick some apples for applesauce and apple pie. I’m guessing we might also snag a pumpkin or two while we’re there. Maybe some acorn squash for roasting. But I digress. Can you tell I’m excited about his visit? Now back to the subject at hand…

I think mashed potatoes are my favorite fall food. We only have them a couple times during the year. I would forgo dessert for serving of a good mashed potato casserole.

Do you have a favorite food you look forward to having in the fall?

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Things I Love About October

Julie Jarnagin: Hey guys. Can you believe it’s already October? This year is flying by. In honor of the new season, I thought I’d share a few things I love about this month.

Sweater Weather – I love when I can pull my boots and cozy sweaters out of my closet.

fall - sweater

Family Traditions – Taking the kids to the pumpkin patch, trick-or-treating…I get to be a kid again.

fall - pumpkin patch

Coffee – Of course I drink coffee all year round, but there’s something extra satisfying about a cup of warm coffee this time of year – especially a vanilla latte from my favorite coffee place downtown.

Fall - latte

Gone Girl – I just finished the book, so I’m extremely excited to see the movie (although, I have a love/hate relationship with the novel. If you’ve read it, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about.) A coworker, and I have recently started a tradition of reading the books that are going to come out as movies and going together. It’s a fun girls’ night out.

fall - gone girl

What are your favorite things about October?

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

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